Let’s begin with a simple definition of these terms. Wikipedia defines “value proposition” as follows: A value proposition consists of the sum total of benefits which a vendor promises a customer will receive in return for the customer’s payment. And it defines an “elevator pitch” this way: A short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition. One would be expected to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately 30 seconds to two minutes, highlighting unique aspects of your service or product in a way that excites others. In other words, you should start with your value proposition, because it’s the basis of your elevator pitch.

Some years ago, I met with the executive team and senior managers of a Silicon Valley software company. I asked each of the dozen people I met to provide me with their company’s value proposition. At the end of the day, I met with the CEO and asked him the same thing. He was surprised to learn that I received a dozen different versions of the company’s value proposition, the majority of which differed dramatically from his.

This situation is actually quite common. The foundation of your sales and marketing efforts is a well-articulated and easily repeatable value proposition. If you cannot communicate your value proposition in 30 seconds or less — or stumble when trying to express it — it’s time to write it down, rehearse it and communicate it to everyone on your team. Once that is done, turn it into an elevator pitch of about a minute in length. Practice makes perfect, so try repeating your value proposition at monthly staff meetings.

Nothing is more important than the value you bring to clients, so make sure your value proposition is always on the tip of your tongue.

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Alan Blume is an author, and as founder and CEO of StartUpSelling Inc., he works with small businesses on lead generation, sales, marketing, website design and branding. For more information, go to www.StartUpSelling.com.